Kenya: Mt Kenya Leaders Meet to Avert Pre-Poll Split

Mt Kenya leaders will meet in Meru on Saturday for talks aimed at averting a split in the region's vote bloc ahead of the August 2022 General Election.

The meeting, which is seen as part of efforts to pour cold water on the emergence and political viability of a camp dubbed Mt Kenya East, will be held at the Kenya Methodist University (Kemu).

The planned talks are expected to bring together governors Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), James Nyoro (Kiambu), Martin Wambora (Embu) and Mwangi wa Iria (Murang'a).

The Kemu talks come barely a month after the region's leaders met in Nyeri, where they vowed to ensure the wider region would field a presidential candidate in next year's elections.

The leaders also expressed their determination to ensure the region maintains a formidable common front in the elections scheduled for August next year.

Former Kiambu governor William Kabogo is among the key players in the unity talks to be hosted by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.

According to Mr Munya's aide Kimathi Amundi, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has also been invited to the meeting.

Mr Munya and Governor Murungi have been pulling in opposite directions, with the county boss rooting for the formation of a party to champion Mt Kenya East interests, a plan the Agriculture CS has dismissed as likely to lock the Mt Kenya region out of the next government.

Unity talks

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who is the coordinator of the group behind the planned meeting, told the Daily Nation that they are keen to consolidate the region's numbers, which are critical for 2022.

"Our numbers mean something and we need to make that count. We shall not be mere pedestrians in the coming elections. We shall unite the region with other progressive forces to achieve our long-term interests," Governor Kinyanjui said.

Mr Kinyanjui welcomed all the leaders from the region, even as political cracks widened following the bruising Kiambaa parliamentary by-election of July 15, which the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), which is associated with Deputy President William Ruto, won, much to the chagrin of President Kenyatta's Jubilee Party.

Mr Munya, who announced the meeting last month, has in the recent past dismissed the coronation of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as the regional spokesman and cautioned against "forces out to split the region's numbers".

"We should never allow anyone to divide us. We have a right to take part in the leadership of Kenya. Kenya belongs to us all and no one has a right over the other. There should be nothing like Mt Kenya East or West," Mr Munya said during a recent meeting in Kirinyaga County.

He added, "We cannot afford to be in the opposition as we were under the Kanu government. This is part of the President's plan to secure the region."

The race for State House in next year's polls has spawned two political formations; one focused on the traditional Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema) unity, while the other has been agitating for Embu, Meru and Tharaka Nithi to break away and form a Mt Kenya East bloc.

Presidential mantle

Governor Murungi, who has been gravitating towards the Mt Kenya East bloc, has in the recent past voiced plans to unveil a regional political party by the end of the year, arguing that Jubilee Party was dead.

In what is seen as part of a battle for political supremacy in Meru, Mr Murungi has cast his lot with a group that supports Mr Muturi's coronation as the region's spokesperson, a move Mr Munya fiercely opposes.

The former Meru governor has maintained President Kenyatta is the de facto Mt Kenya spokesperson, in a thinly veiled jab against Muturi's coronation as the region's spokesperson and presidential flagbearer.

The group led by Governor Murungi, however, maintains it has the blessings of the President to identify a regional spokesperson after the Sagana meeting of Saturday, January 30, this year.

Mr Murungi's group argues that the eastern part of the Mountain has for many years supported their cousins from Central Kenya, adding that it was time the latter reciprocated by backing someone from Meru, Embu or Tharaka-Nithi counties.

Mr Murungi's Mt Kenya East allies have on several occasions threatened to go it alone next year should one of their own not be picked to carry the region's presidential mantle.

Mr Munya, for his part, claims the pro-Muturi group comprises supporters of Deputy President William Ruto, who "are working towards pushing the region into the opposition".

The National Assembly Speaker has since declared he will be running for President next year and has been traversing the country to popularise his bid.

Mr Munya said he and Central Kenya governors have devised a plan to ensure the region remains in government even after President Kenyatta retires.

What is, however, likely to widen the cracks further is a plan to have a parallel Njuri Ncheke elders' group denounce the coronation of Mr Muturi as the Mt Kenya region's spokesman.

"What happened at the Njuri Ncheke shrine is a sham. Mr Muturi was duped by a few elders who do not represent the voice of the council. Soon, you will see a meeting of all real Njuri Ncheke elders who will undo the mistake," Mr Munya said at a past meeting in Meru.

This comes barely months after another parallel ceremony was carried out at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga in Murang'a, where a group of Central Kenya elders gathered to "cleanse" the Agikuyu shrine and renounce Mr Muturi's coronation as the new Mt Kenya kingpin.

Mr Munya argued that the clamour for a political party to champion the interests of Mt Kenya East is part of a ploy to divide the populous Mt Kenya vote to suit the whims of some politicians.

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